This month I’m going to cover two common questions with one Feature Photograph article.  I was going to say kill two birds with one stone but I like birds.  Don’t you?  The questions are “how do I get good ISO images in dark venues”, and the second is “does it make sense to buy a used DSLR?”   Let’s approach the answers using these two images from an 8-9 year old Canon 1ds Mark II DSLR which can currently be found on Ebay for as little as $800 in good condition or as much as $1400 in barely used like new condition.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 135mm F2 USM  @F2.5  1/80th  ISO 3200

This month I’m going to cover two common questions with one Feature Photograph article.  I was going to say kill two birds with one stone but I like birds.  Don’t you?  The questions are “how do I get good ISO images in dark venues”, and the second is “does it make sense to buy a used DSLR?”   Let’s approach the answers using these two images from an 8-9 year old Canon 1ds Mark II DSLR which can currently be found on Ebay for as little as $800 in good condition or as much as $1400 in barely used like new condition.

Not all used DSLR’s are great values nor are they necessarily even desirable to use.  Most are as you imagine them, old obsolete technology which produce the same marginal images today as they did years ago.  But some models are still highly desirable and in fact will serve you well if properly used which we’ll address as well.   The most desirable DSLR’s from the past are the models with full frame sensors and professional level systems and build quality.   This almost exclusively limits you to the Canon 1ds, 1ds Mark II and more recently it’s really hard to go wrong with the used but much newer Nikon D3.

Further down the list but still desirable would be the consumer grade full frame models like the Canon 5d, and the much newer but still used Canon 5d Mark II and Nikon D700.  It would be hard to go wrong with either one provided the price is right and the camera works as advertised.   Keep in mind that even the consumer grade full frame DSLR’s have shutters designed for as many as 150,000 actuations and most being sold have south of 50,000.   If the previous owner has used this camera for 5-8 years and only has 40,000 actuations you’ll certainly get years of use out of a copy in good condition. 

No matter the condition, even if it’s brand new in the box, never lose track of it’s value.  If a well used Canon 1ds Mark II is worth  say $1200, then a brand new one IS NOT worth more than maybe another $300.  Either one will serve you well for years and they won’t have warranties, so don’t get too hung up on shutter actuations or pristine condition.  Buy it with the intention of using it, and using it often and hard.  What a great value that will turn out to be.  Heck, virtually 100% of the images on this site were shot with one of the above cameras!

 

The second part of the question is high ISO performance in low light venues.  There is no real secret to low noise images at higher ISO’s, NAIL THE EXPOSURE, and this holds true for brand new models as well.  If you learn how to get the exposure right the first time so you can keep noise inducing post-processing to a minimum then you’ll be rewarded with great looking high ISO images at the cameras highest ISO settings.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 135nn F2 USM  @F2.2  1/60th  ISO 3200

 

The second part of the question is high ISO performance in low light venues.  There is no real secret to low noise images at higher ISO’s, NAIL THE EXPOSURE, and this holds true for brand new models as well.  If you learn how to get the exposure right the first time so you can keep noise inducing post-processing to a minimum then you’ll be rewarded with great looking high ISO images at the cameras highest ISO settings.

Such a camera coupled with a fast lens and a quality noise reduction software utility will give you great looking low noise images such as these two examples shot after shot.  With such images try not to get too hung up over sharpness, color fidelity, or a deep depth of field.  Such images look their best slightly soft with a more shallow DOF, so feel free to open up that lens and shoot wide open.

I’ve been using digital DSLR’s since they were first available and I’ve owned most every significant new model made, especially the professional level full frame models.  I remain convinced by paying attention to exposure, aperture, and post processing, that I can consistently match or exceed the results of someone using the latest most expensive DSLR who isn’t attending to these variables as well or as often as I.

These two images are not flukes or one off lucky shots.  These are painfully average, exactly what you should expect from an 8-9 year old full frame DSLR properly deployed.  If you’d like a full frame low ISO performance virtually no different from the newest DSLR”s and comparable hgh ISO performance, with professional level autofocus and exposure systems, and a “brick house” build quality.. for as little as $800.. then head to your local camera reseller, Ebay, or other such venues and I’m sure you’ll turn up such a camera which will last you for another 8-9 years.  And these sellers, they’ll often have consumer grade lenses they’ll want to get rid of as well, ask and you might get an entire system for under $1000!